The terms assault and battery are commonly mistaken for the same crime. However, though they are similar in nature, they each have defining characteristics and separate sentencing guidelines. The most defining difference between the two is the presence of actual physical harm.

In the state of Georgia, an assault charge can take place in a number of circumstances. Actual physical harm to another person is not required in order for a party to be charged with assault. It also includes attempting to harm someone, threatening to harm someone or exhibiting threatening behaviors and placing someone in a situation in which they may be harmed.

In order for a party to be charged with battery, he or she must have made physical contact with the victim, whether by way of provocation, insult or intentional bodily harm. For example, if in an attempt to lure a victim into a fight a perpetrator pushes, slaps or otherwise physically antagonizes the person, a battery charge would be warranted. Once physical contact is made, an assault charge can be upgraded to battery and include steeper sentencing.

While Georgia takes both assault and battery charges seriously, they tend to sentence more strictly for battery. An assault conviction can include prison time of one to 20 years, fines up to $1,000 and restitution. A battery conviction can include the same prison sentence with fines increased up to $5,000, and ordered probation in addition to restitution. This is why any person charged with these types of crimes could benefit from the advice and guidance of a criminal law attorney.